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Monday, February 17, 2014

Courts - "Same-sex marriage moving swiftly back toward Supreme Court"

Here is David G. Savage's story today in the LA Times. Some quotes:

WASHINGTON — The legal campaign for marriage equality is picking up speed, moving at a pace that has surprised even longtime advocates and increasing the likelihood of a definitive Supreme Court test as early as next year.

Efforts by some lawyers to plan a careful strategy for which cases to push forward to the high court have largely been put aside amid a rush of lower-court rulings striking down bans on same-sex marriage. The most recent came Thursday in Virginia, the first such ruling in the South.

"I don't think there is any way to predict" which case will arrive at the Supreme Court first, lawyer David Boies said Friday following the Virginia ruling.

In the last eight weeks, in addition to the Virginia decision, federal judges in Utah and Oklahoma have struck down laws limiting marriage equality. A federal judge in Kentucky ruled the state must recognize same-sex marriages from other states. And in Ohio, a federal judge issued a more narrow ruling that cast doubt on the state's ban.

Increasingly, the judges are saying they can see no legitimate justification for denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples. With the Supreme Court having said that states cannot validly base marriage laws on traditional religious disapproval of homosexuality, the remaining justifications offered to defend the laws fail to pass muster, the judges have ruled. * * *

The sequence of rulings amounts to "a fundamental shift in the legal landscape," said Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry. Jurists increasingly are saying that "marriage discrimination against loving and committed gay couples is indefensible under our Constitution," he said.

That shift is not limited to judges. The chief state attorneys in Virginia, Pennsylvania and Nevada refused to defend the constitutionality of their long-standing laws forbidding gay marriage.

More from the long story:
So far, the recent rulings on marriage have come from federal district courts. Before any case gets to the Supreme Court, the intermediate level appeals courts will weigh in.

The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver will go first, with oral arguments scheduled for April on the cases from Oklahoma and Utah. The Virginia ruling will go to the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., and the Kentucky case will go to the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in San Francisco, has a pending appeal from Nevada but has not scheduled arguments.

Once an appeals court hands down a decision, the losing side will have 90 days to file an appeal in the Supreme Court. As a result, a ruling that comes this summer could easily reach the justices in time for a decision in 2015.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 17, 2014 08:36 AM
Posted to Courts in general